HD camcorders shoot great video but it's not easy to watch

May 27, 2009 By Troy Wolverton

If you want to buy a high-definition camcorder, no problem -- you have a range of options.

If you want to watch your on a TV, or share it with your sister, good luck -- the consumer electronics giants have put the cart before the horse, as it were. They've got these great HD but no easy way to show off the videos you can shoot.


A little more than three years ago, the only HD camcorders you could find cost $1,500. Today, you can pay as little as $200 for the hand-held Flip UltraHD or choose among a wide variety of others from Sony, and that cost less than $1,000.

But in most cases, consumers' "best" option for watching their HD videos may be plugging their cameras into a TV. That can be a hassle, and it also means you can't use your camera while watching videos shot with it, and can't easily share those videos with friends or family.

With some camcorders, even plugging them into a TV is not an option. The Flip MinoHD, for example, is incompatible with high-definition video cables.

This is an area of the market that's crying out for a solution. But don't hold your breath.

Twenty years ago, you could buy a camcorder that recorded video on a VHS tape and play it in your VCR. Five years ago, you could record video onto a DVD and then watch it on your DVD player without too much trouble.

But HD changes the picture (sorry for the pun).

Most camcorders today -- high and standard-definition -- record video onto an internal hard drive or a removable flash memory card. Aside from plugging the cameras directly into a TV, the only other way to watch the video is to first transfer the video fi les to a computer. That's because you generally can't remove the cameras' internal hard drives. And most TVs or video equipment either don't have a slot for a flash memory card or, if they do, don't usually allow you to play movies off of them.

Working with HD video on a computer is the easy part -- you often just have to drag and drop files to transfer them to the computer or double click on the files.

But once you've got the movies on your computer, there's no standard way to make something you can watch on your TV. Burning a disc generally doesn't work, because the standard DVD format is incompatible with high-definition video.

There are a couple of solutions.

Devices that burn Blu-ray discs, the high-definition replacement for DVDs, are starting to appear as an accessory in some computers. Meanwhile, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game consoles will play HD videos stored on portable drives that you can plug into their USB ports.

The Xbox 360 and Apple TV will play home movies uploaded to your computer via a network connection. Seagate and Western Digital have new HD media players that will play videos stored on portable hard drives.

And you can always plug your computer into your TV to play HD videos.

But none of these solutions is ideal, or all that easy. The gadgets typically cost $200 or more. And some, like the game consoles or the networked media players, won't play your files unless you have the right software installed or a properly configured network connection. That's always fun to set up.

And even if you get an HD file to play on your TV, you can probably forget about playing it on your sister's TV or your friend's.

I wouldn't use these hassles as a reason to hold off on buying an HD camcorder. Many shoot beautiful videos far superior to those of standard-definition videos cameras.

Just know that for now you may be a bit frustrated trying to watch them.


(c) 2009, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
Visit MercuryNews.com, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at www.mercurynews.com
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Five features an Amazon phone might offer (Update)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Latest Flip is bigger, but better

May 06, 2009

Since its debut in 2007, the Flip video camera has turned millions of people into filmmakers by providing a foolproof way to shoot videos and upload them to the Web.

Panasonic Introduces Two New HD Camcorders

Jul 30, 2007

Panasonic today announced two new High Definition video camcorders. The new HDC-SD5 and HDC-SX5 camcorders employ cutting-edge imaging technology to capture video recordings that are breathtakingly clear and vibrant, especially ...

Roku teams with Amazon to stream videos

Mar 04, 2009

Roku, maker of a $100 box that delivers streaming Netflix videos to consumers' TVs, is teaming with Amazon.com to vastly increase the number of movies and TV episodes consumers can watch through the device.

VuNow Sends Free Internet Video Directly to Your TV

Dec 31, 2008

Verismo's VuNow is an affordable solution for video lovers that sends free internet video content directly to your Television set. VuNow only takes a minute to connect, just plug in the AC power, connect your ...

Recommended for you

Five features an Amazon phone might offer (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

Sony's PlayStation 4 sales top seven million

Apr 17, 2014

Sony says it has sold seven million PlayStation 4 worldwide since its launch last year and admitted it can't make them fast enough, in a welcome change of fortune for the Japanese consumer electronics giant.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) May 28, 2009
If you shoot in HD then convert and burn to DVD, your quality will be much superior to just standard definition to DVD. Sure, you don't get true HD... but if you wanted that, you've probably already figured out the glaringly obvious computer output to TV fix. Or bought a blu-ray burner.

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...